In 1856 at the Feldhofer Cave, near Dusseldorf Germany, Neandertal Man informally introduced himself to the world. Named after the valley in which he was discovered (Neander Tal), this hominid would send anthropologists mad for over 100 years. Neandertals were the ancestors that nobody wanted. They were initially regarded as dim-witted brutes with clubs and beast-like features. This misconception was due to French paleontologist, Marcellin Boule. Upon examining the remains of the La Chapelle-aux-Saints Neandertal from France, also known as the 'old man' of La Chapelle-aux-Saints, Boule declared that these hominids were unintelligent due to their low-browed brains and that the only thing they could produce was their crude tools and not much else. Boule also believed that "the beast had walked with bent knees and a shambling gait, his head slung forward on a squat neck, his big toe splayed out chimpanzee-like to the side" (Shreeve 1994:18). Of course, later we would learn that this was wrong and that Boule's prejudices got in the way of his examination of the elderly hominid. Actually, the specimen he examined was crippled and extremely arthritic, which Boule somehow managed to overlook. Some anthropologists believe it was merely impossible to miss the evidence of the 'old man's' arthritis on his bones because it was so obvious to see. Either way, his analysis left a permanent scar on the Neandertals image that would not begin to heal until many years later.
Today we know that Boule's predictions about Neandertals are not true.
With twentieth century scientific advances and modern interpretations a
new views of Neandertals and their culture have been provided. This is
the world of Neandertals, this is their life and their story, but in order
to properly understand it, we must first understand them. Journey with
me into their world as we go in search of the truth about these hominids.
Hunting and Diet
Burial and Ritual
The Fate of Neandertals
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